The first time my husband and I ate Indian food was with our friend, Ronda and her boyfriend. They brought us to a little Indian restaurant on East Sixth Street, known as Curry Row. The streets were lined with one Indian restaurant after another, and each of them had an eager employee standing on the street to drum up business. The competition was fierce as each of them worked hard to get your attention as you passed by, trying to entice you to come into their restaurant. The restaurants were all decked out with strings of chile pepper lights and decorations. It was a little corny, but at the same time magical.
We finally chose a restaurant and like many of the other restaurants, the meal was very inexpensive. We had a 7 course meal for about $10 per person. Of course, this goes back 24 years, but it is still very inexpensive today, relatively speaking.
The food was like nothing we had ever eaten before. To be honest there is better Indian food available in New York, as a matter of fact New York has some of the best Indian restaurants around. Even so, the food we ate that night was good enough to leave a lasting impression on us. Since then it is one of our favorite cuisines.
For years I was intimidated by the idea of cooking Indian food, but finally I decided to try. Once you buy the various spices and have them in your pantry, it is not so hard to do. I often combine the various spices and create my own dishes.
Chicken Tikka Masala is probably one of the most common dishes served in restaurants today. This recipe that I am presenting to you is from Aarti Sequeira. She is one of my favorite chefs. I have made only very minor adjustments to the recipe. If you like Indian food, this is a good recipe with which to start, because it does not require many different spices.
Ingredients for chicken marinade:
1-1/2 – cups plain yogurt
4 – tbls. ginger-garlic paste (recipe to follow)
1-1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 – tsp. ground black pepper
2 – lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs (you can use white meat if you prefer)
Directions for chicken marinade:
Rinse the chicken in cold water and pat dry. Cut it into one inch cubes and place in a large bowl. Mix the rest of the ingredients together and add it to the chicken. Be sure that all pieces are covered in the marinade. Cover and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Ingredients for Ginger-Garlic Paste:
3/4 – cup whole garlic cloves
3/4 – cup fresh ginger
1/3 – cup canola oil
Directions for Ginger-Garlic paste:
Peel the ginger and cut it into small pieces, peel the garlic cloves and blend all the ingredients together until it becomes a smooth paste.
Ingredients for the Curry (sauce)
2 – tsp. canola oil
4 – tbls. butter
4 – tbls. ginger-garlic paste
1 – Serrano pepper
3 – tbls. tomato paste
3 – tsp. garam masala
3 – tsp. paprika
10 – roma tomatoes
1-1/2 – tsp. salt
1 – cup water
1/2 tbls. ground fenugreek
1 – cup heavy cream
1 – tsp. minced cilantro for garnish (optional)
Directions for the Curry:
Dice the tomatoes and set aside. Add the oil and butter to a large skillet and heat on a medium flame. Dice the Serrano pepper and add it to the skillet along with with ginger-garlic paste. Sauté about 3-4 minutes until just starting to brown. Stir often. Now add the tomato paste, stir and cook about 2-3 minutes. Next add the garam masala and paprika. Continue to cook for another 2 minutes, stirring often.
Next, add the tomatoes, salt and one cup water. Mix well and bring it to a boil. Once it is boiling, turn down the heat and let simmer for about 20 minutes. The tomatoes should start to break down and thicken. You can add more water if it starts to dry out. Stir often so that the tomatoes do not stick to the bottom of the pan.
While the sauce is cooking, heat a stove top grill or iron skillet if you do not have a grill and add a little canola oil. Brown the chicken on both sides. It does not have to be cooked through because it will finish cooking in the sauce. Discard the leftover marinade. If the process of cooking the chicken takes longer than the 20 minutes for the sauce, turn off the sauce until all the chicken is browned.
Before you add the chicken to the sauce, use an immersion blender (you can also use a blender or food processor) to purée the sauce. Be careful with the hot liquid. Once you have browned all the chicken add it to the puréed sauce along with the ground fenugreek, and simmer for about 20 minutes. This will allow the chicken to finish cooking and the meat will become tender. Now add the cream and stir through. Serve with the Persian Rice and Saag Paneer (creamy spinach and cheese). You will find the recipes are on my blog by clicking on the links.